High Schools: Then and Now

This story comes from longtime staffer Jim McConnell, the man we call, “The King” around the office. He writes a weekly Then & Now column. This week he shares his emails.

It is the age of enlightenment, at least for this columnist. In response to recent columns, several readers have supplied additional information on local high school sports stars.
Andy Sais e-mailed a mini-biography of Mark Costello, the 1950 CIF Large Schools basketball Player of the Year from El Monte High. Costello went on to play for John Wooden at UCLA and graduated with a degree in engineering in 1954.
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Costello married Dawn, his high school “steady,” after they graduated from UCLA. Dawn was the 1951 Queen of the L.A. County Fair.

The pair had three children and owned a produce market. Mark died in 1994 of a heart attack. Dawn has remarried – to Sais. Sais, by the way, is a former teacher, coach and counselor at Schurr High. He retired in 1992.

Sais pointed out that before it was a high school, Schurr was a junior high school. Many star athletes passed through campus en route to Montebello High.

A couple Montebello High grads from the 1960s, Rich Olson and Dante Scarnecchia, are quite prominent in the world of football coaching. Olson has long been an assistant to Dennis Erickson, first at the University of Miami and currently at Arizona State. Scarnecchia is an assistant coach on Bill Belechick’s staff with the New England Patriots.

Another former Montebello High football star, Ron Lou, went on to star at Arizona State and played four years (1973-76) as a center in the NFL. Another Oilers standout, Doug Rihn, won Little All-American honors as a defensive back at Cal Lutheran and eventually returned to coach football at his alma mater.

Going back to basketball, and UCLA, current El Monte High basketball coach John Gillette wrote in to note that former Alhambra High basketball star Ronnie Bane joined El Monte’s Costello at UCLA. Bane, who is a member of the Alhambra High Athletic Hall of Fame (more on that later), eventually became a starter for Wooden’s Bruins and played on a conference champion team.

Also going to UCLA and playing for “The Wizard of Westwood” in the 1950s were Covina High’s Fred Crabtree and Citrus High’s Billy Kilmer, along with several other local products. So much for the myth that Wooden never recruited San Gabriel Valley players.

Back to that Alhambra Hall of Fame. Current Moors baseball coach Steve Gewecke supplied the complete list of all 92 members of the school’s Hall, and it is quite impressive.

Space precludes printing the entire list in this column, but the Hall includes such luminaries as major league baseball hall of famer Ralph Kiner (Class of 1940), auto racing’s Sam Hanks (Class of 1932) and Mickey Thompson (Class of 1946), early NFL star Vic Carroll (Class of 1930), legendary NFL general manager Tex Schramm (Class of 1938), longtime NFL official Jim Tunney (Class of 1946), future USC basketball coach Bob Boyd (Class of 1948), basketball standouts Darrall Imhoff (Class of 1956) and George Ratkovich (Class of 1977) and major league pitcher Dan Larson (Class of 1972).

Then there’s Bob Sherman (Class of 1938). He became an all-conference player in basketball at UC Santa Barbara, played one season for the Hartford Hurricanes of the American Basketball League (the forerunner of the NBA) and won nearly 100 national titles in senior tennis.

Or how about Martin Vasquez (Class of 1981). The high school All-American in soccer at Alhambra became the only player to play on the Mexican and U.S. national soccer teams.

Also in the AHS Hall is Helen Noble-Tibbits (Class of 1942), who became a national champion in badminton and was inducted into the USA Badminton Hall of Fame in 1971.

Back to baseball. Gewecke reports Larson is scheduled to play in the annual Alhambra alumni baseball game scheduled for Saturday, March21, at 1 p.m. at Moor Field on the AHS campus.

It’s a wonderful thing that Alhambra has the Hall. I know several other schools do, but for sheer star power it would be tough to match the Moors.

The only omission I see on the list is Cheryl Tiegs (Class of 1965). She was a cheerleader for the Moors, but her claim to fame is, of course, as a model. She was the first superstar model to emerge from Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue. She appeared on the SI cover three times (1970, 1975 and 1983). No doubt SI owes much of its success to its swimsuit issues, and in particular those that featured Tiegs.

And if that’s not a sports connection, I don’t know what is.

jim.mcconnell@sgvn.com

(626) 962-8811, Ext. 2383

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